Sunday, 4 December 2016

Surely not another morning on the nature reserve

The Safari spotted a midge/gnatty thing on the outside of the kitchen window late yesterday afternoon and went to get the super-macro. What fantastically feathery head-gear! Shame the pic had to be taken through two panes of dirty glass with near darkness outside.
This morning we were able to have a couple of hours at the nature reserve in some bright almost warm sunshine, warm enough for a visiting birder to be wandering around in shorts. Like the other day there were a decent number of Blackbirds about although maybe not quite so many.
One of the far far too many dog walkers with unleashed dogs told us an owl had been seen earlier. The amount of doggy disturbance this morning was seriously shocking - if only the main path wasn't a Public Footpath and the gate could be locked...wouldn't stop them one would be down with bolt croppers within hours no doubt and before then most of them would have climbed over anyway; they're a nightmare! 
Passing a few flushed Fieldfares we walked down to another out-of-town birder who was obviously looking for the owl but in the wrong place. We joined him and showed him where we'd seen it the day before yesterday but couldn't see it in there today. With both of us looking for about half an hour we eventually found it for the tree it was in the day before yesterday but now the sun had moved round it was seeable - just.
We took it in turns to stand in the only specific spot from which it could be seen when a Chiffchaff flew past behind it. A Redwing perched briefly behind it too and had a little feather flurry but was more than slightly obscured by the closer tall summer's dead vegetation.
Moving on we saw more very wary Fieldfares and Redwings a shy Great Spotted Woodpecker a fly-over Skylark and a Cetti's Warbler out in the open ever so briefly in the scrub. Further on we met MJ and EP who were setting off on the wrong path for a look at the Long Eared Owl so rather than describe where it was with the risk of them not finding it we retraced our steps and showed them the bird. By now the sun had moved round a bit more and a slightly better vantage point had been found. Slightly being the operative word!
Thank goodness for  manual focus!
Once again we'd lingered too long and it was time to head back to Base Camp before we'd had a chance to look properly at the waterfowl.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 in the morning where there have been some good birds seen while we've not been able to look.
In the meantime let us know who's almost invisible in your outback.

Friday, 2 December 2016

A dull morning was anything but dull

The Safari had an impromptu day off today to get some head-space and a bit of chilling time. We left for the nature reserve just after the early morning rush. Almost as soon as we got out of the car we noticed there were a lot of Blackbirds around and it didn't take long to find a Song Thrush. A Goldcrest called from the hedgerow too. 
Our first stop was the viewing platform from where we saw there were a lot of Coots and other waterfowl. The light was dreadful so we didn't stop long moving on to see if wee could see our day's  'official quarry' which was lurking in the scrub somewhere. On the walk down we heard multiple gunshots from not very far away and immediately the sky was full of panicking wildfowl. The shooting was coming from an area where it's allowed but really there needs to be a buffer zone of at least a mile from wetland nature reserves/SSSIs where there should no shooting what-so-ever - what's the point of a sanctuary if the wildlife doesn't feel safe there?
A few of the Teal
A few of the Wigeon
We looked and looked and looked but couldn't see what we wanted to in the scrub but there were lots more Blackbirds and a couple more Song Thrushes. We gave up and moved on to the embankment where we got stupendous views of a Cetti's Warbler out in the open while another sang  behind it. Above it was yet another Song Thrush, given a bit of moving around and the risk of double counting we guesstimate we'd seen at least eight by now.
Continuing towards the bridge we heard another Cetti's Warbler but couldn't find the Stonechats. While we were looking for them we got a call from LR who was on his way, which was good as it was he who found our hidden quarry earlier in the week so we wandered back to wait for him. The scrub now held some Fieldfares, a flock of 13 Redwings flew over and the second Goldcrest of the morning was with a small party of foraging tits.
LR arrived and told us we were looking in the wrong place by a few yards and three or four trees. There was one of the two Long Eared Owls he'd seen earlier in the week well hidden deep in the bottom of a gnarly old Hawthorn. We never did find the second.
Time as ever was running short so we went round to the far side to have a look at the waterfowl from the hide affectionately known as Ice Station Zebra. There's been some management work done on the reeds but not quiet enough to fully open up the view. We saw lots of Coots, still in dreadful light, and not a lot else close by.
Still no sign of the 'Posh' Gull in town yet, if it's going to return for another winter it shouldn't be far away now.
With time pressing even harder now we bumped into MMcG armed with a new and hopefully Grey Squirrel-proof feeder for the feeding station. He spotted a sizeable flock of 15 Long  Tailed Tits and that was the end of our time allowed. Back to the car with some haste it was to go and do some jobs.
Where to next? Family visiting again tomorrow but Wifey has come up with a cunning plan for the first part of the journey - Monty might like it too.
In the meantime let us know who's keeping well hidden in your outback.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Berries galore but...

The Safari was out on Patch 2 early this morning but it was very quiet out on the sea. Beneath our feet we found a dry piece of seaweed we weren't sure about. There's not that many to chose from so we shouldn't have had any problems IDing it but we did.
We're now fairly sure it's a piece of Egg Wrack that doesn't have any 'eggs' along the midrib our marine biologist friend DB should be able to confirm that.
We tried again on Patch 2 at lunchtime but it was no better. There was a bit of sunshine so we went for a wander around the work's garden instead. Along the back wall there's a good stretch of the invasive and very prickly Japanese Rose. It's absolutely bedecked with bright red rose hips.
But as we walked further we saw that not a single one had been pecked open. Normally by this late in the autumn we have a small flock of Greenfinches kicking around the garden. Where are they? Well a quick peruse of the BTO website gave a bit of a clue - basically there aren't many about compared to previous years.
Taken from the BTO website
So after a population high point 10 years ago there's been a decided crash to fewer than there have been at any time since at least the 1960s probably due to the Trichomonosis disease they are suffering from.
You can see how few there are being reported this year compared to historically using the Birdtrack graph.
Taken from the Birdtrack website
Thankfully we still get them in the garden at Base Camp but that does mean that we need to thoroughly clean the feeders before we refill them.
We'll keep you posted if any Greenfinches turn up and/or we get a different ID on the seaweed. 
A shorter whizz round Patch 1 with Monty late afternoon gave us at least two Goldcrests again, lots of Magpies going to roost, at least 30 and the Peregrine was on the tower settled in for the night - a little warmer for it than of late 5C rather than a chilly -4C.
Where to next? More Patch 2 nonsense and maybe some Patch 1 stuff too.
In the meantime let us know who's all dried up in your outback.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Searching the seashore

The Safari managed to get out on to Patch 2 for some fresh air and head-space time at lunchtime yesterday. The light out to sea was awful and the tide was out so most of the birds were distant silhouettes. On the wall nearby there were three Pied Wagtails catching the cold immobile flies.
They were very skittish and almost impossible to sneak up on. They're used to passers-by and allow quite close approach but only if you don't stop...if you stop they fly off miles along the wall meaning a good walk to catch up with them again. Nightmare! But with a little patience and a lorra lorra luck we managed this one, although it is a heavy crop.
In the sunshine the Buff Tailed Bumble Bees were busy on the Castor Oil plant's flowers too.
Duff pics in the dull shade
Today we were out at lunchtime again and once again the light was horrendous to the south where the Common Scoters were. No sign of the wagtails today but we did meet one of the Cumbria Wildlife Trust's marine lasses. She was looking at the state of the tide with a view to starting a ShoreSearch training session for the marine biology students from the local college. While looking down the slade to see how far the tide still had to drop before her group could start work we spotted a dozen Turnstones  feeding a little way above the splashes from the breaking waves.
After chatting we went back inside but came back out latter to meet the team. They were busy working on their transects and recording what vegetation, and how much of each, was found in their quadrats.
It was warmer down on the beach than it was up on the prom!
In other news Monty has reached Patch 1 twice now. Last night he added a couple of Goldcrests to his life list and this evening he counted about 30 Magpies going to roost close to where he'll be watching the White Letter Hairstreaks next July.
Where to next? More Patch 2 and back to Patch 1 later too probably.
In the meantime let us know who's searching for what in your outback.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Ice is nice

The Safari is still busy with family stuff but the last few days have been very frosty and we've had a couple of opportunities to get out with Wifey, Monty and the camera. Monty looks pretty good against the  autumnal woodland floor.
Spot the odd one out
It was cold out there but not a chilly as a few minutes after first light when we were able to get some nice pics of ice crystals on the moss on a neighbour's wall and some nearby leaves.

At Ma n Da's yesterday a Mistle Thrush was giving plenty of volume to a quiet cold afternoon which was good to hear and later, after dark, we heard a small number of Pink Footed Geese going over.  
Monty was out at the top end of Chat Alley again this morning. The tide was in so we took the camera in the hope of a Grey Seal close to the wall but it wasn't to be, we didn't take a single snal all morning. Monty had great fun playing rough and tumble with a couple of new found friends but crashed out shattered for most of the afternoon and was too tired to go back out.
He's still not quite ready to take on safari on our own yet as he's not learned to walk to heal, loves to try to meet and greet all dogs and people,follows his nose in every which direction; it would be a nightmare trying to hold on to him and use our bins or camera at the sane time. We reckon he'll be a lot more mature in the New Year.
Where to next? There's a little bit of relief from the pressure next week so we might be able to get out on Patch 2 once or twice and maybe get a visit or two to the local Starling murmuration too.
In the meantime let us know who's chilling in your outback.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Smiles in the desert

The Safari has been off the radar a bit recently as we've been pre-occupied with a family crisis. Yesterday we received the sad news we've been expecting but not wanting to hear.
With the day and our head in turmoil we stayed off work today. 
Not far along the coast from Patch 2 there'd been a Desert Wheatear working the strandline over the weekend. We needed some time out to ourself so what better than to grab the bins and camera and nip down there shortly after first light in the hope that it was still there after a clear start to the night last night. Dawn today broke dull and gloomy with a seriously nippy wind down on the beach.
Off we went climbing the tracks over the dunes to get down onto the beach, From the summit of the dunes we saw a birder walking up the beach stopping occasionally to scan the fore-dunes. Once a bit nearer we saw it was top South-side birder GC. A quick chat revealed he'd not seen hardly a bird at all so far but was unsure exactly where to look. As it happened we did know where it had been and he'd walked a hundred yards too far. We walked back chatting and scanning, two pairs of eyes are better than one after all! his eyes were better than ours - he spotted Young Un AB waving away in the distance. And he was waving for good cause, he'd found the bird near enough where he'd seen it last yesterday.
We walked up as fast as decency would permit and in no time at all were watching a distant speck working its way along the strandline. Desert Wheatear (184) in the bag with plenty of time to spare.
With no need to tick and run we had time to play the waiting game and hope it came closer. Which it did before too long.
The best way to view it was to watch it from the beach then walk, well out on the beach to get in front of it then cut in to the line of posts which prevent the mechanical beach cleaners ripping up the fore-dunes. From there the bird would come right past us.
It can't half hop quick too, if it didn't stop to pick up morsels we wouldn't have been able to keep up with it.
At  the 'end' of the beach there are huge mounds of sand from the industrial extraction that goes on there. With the bird getting closer we decided to use one of the outlying heaps as a makeshift hide. Well worth it. Our little feathered friend almost landed on our foot and was, for a minute or two, too close to photograph, it was so close we could 'see the whites of its eyes' - a splendid, uplifting experience and just what we needed after the recent harrowing days.
Almost looks as though it could have been taken on a dune in North Africa
Shame it was so dull that the pics are taken at ISO ludicrous and are a bit grainy but hey-ho it's a great bird to have locally.
Where to next? More family stuff tomorrow so probably not a lot of chance to see much wildlife.
In the meantime let us know who's taken a wrong turn in your outback. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Indoors and out on the prom

The Safari had a bit of different day last Sunday. We went to see Wildlife Adventurer Steve Backshall give a bit of a talk. He's good, well enthusiastic - nearly as good as we are even!
It was great to see so many youngsters there and how knowledgeable are they, very impressive. We saw some big kids we knew too - even bigger than we are! And chatting to one of them yesterday evening at a meeting he too was impressed with the show and the number of kids there. There is hope for the future of our precious wildlife. We even got to ask the very first question at the end of the superb section about sharks. We didn't ask anything about fish but if he was going to watch the Starling murmuration around the pier after the show. Unfortunately he would be book signing and chatting to his fans so would miss it. Not to worry a couple of families asked for more details  of how and where they could see the Starlings so a result, lets hope they go down and get a good show.
Earlier we'd taken Monty for a wander along the cliffs. It was very busy with dog walkers, joggers and cyclists, so there were few birds to be found to point the camera at.
Eventually we left the grassy cliff top and went down onto the lower prom where we were able to get a couple of shots of the resident Pied Wagtails. One shot was a very fluky hit, we weren't sure it would be in focus but it came out alright.
We think it's a better pic than the full on portrait we got a little later.
Below us the tide was just dropping off the base of the wall giving a few Sanderlings the chance to fly in and feed in the shallow water.

The big lens would have been better than our little zoom given the distance but it was good just to watch them scuttering around in the waves.
Once the tide dropped a bit further we took Monty down for his first look at the sea. He got three of his four paws wet but didn't seemed that impressed. Next week we bet there'll be no stopping him!
Where to next? More news of Monty on the beach at the weekend perhaps, hospital visiting permitting.
In the meantime let us know who's peering over the top in your outback.